The Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) has criticized Italy’s new bill which would criminalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
In a statement, the bishops argued that even though “discrimination – including [discrimination] based on sexual orientation – constitute[s] a violation of human dignity, which – as such – must always be respected in words, actions and legislation,” a specific protection against discrimination on the basis of LGBTQ identity is unnecessary and would criminalize legitimate differences of opinion.
Specifically, the bishops voiced concern that should the new law be passed, it would open the door to criminalizing “those who believe that the family requires a father and a mother to be such – and not a duplication of these figures,” thus creating “a crime of opinion.”
“This effectively limits personal freedom, educational choices, one’s way of thinking and being, and the exercise of criticism and dissent,” they said.
“The Italian bishops said they are looking at the new bill ‘with concern,’ insisting that for crimes dealing with discrimination, ‘not only is there no regulatory vacuum, but there are also no gaps that justify the urgency of new provisions.’
“‘A possible introduction of further incriminating norms would risk opening up to anti-freedom drifts, so that – rather than sanctioning discrimination – it would end up hitting the expression of a legitimate opinion, as taught by the experience of legal systems in other nations, within which similar norms have already been introduced,’ they said.”
Francesca Businarolo, the president of the Justice Commission of the legislature’s Chamber of Deputies, where the bill was introduced, argued that the bill is necessary to prevent discrimination, saying:
“’To affirm, as the Italian bishops do, that adequate safeguards already exist to combat this phenomenon means not wanting to acknowledge a harsh reality of discrimination against which we feel political and ethical responsibility to intervene.'”
Alessandro Zan, a deputy of Italy’s Democratic Party and an author of the bill, disagrees with the bishops’ belief that the bill would create a “crime of opinion.”
“’I repeat it for the umpteenth time to avoid misunderstandings: The crime of “propaganda of ideas” will not be extended to sexual orientation and gender identity,’ Zan said.”
As Crux reported, Zan stated that “the law aims to protect individuals from being bullied, attacked or killed because of their sexual orientation or identity.”
“’It is therefore not a law against freedom of opinion, but a law that protects people’s dignity,’” he said. In Zan’s view, the lack of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals places Italy “in the last places in Europe for social acceptance of LGBT people. This state of affairs is no longer acceptable for a civilized country.”
Italy’s Prime Minister and President both voiced support for the bill.
The lack of explicit anti-discrimination legislation in Italy keeps LGBTQ individuals exposed to continued vulnerability. LGBTQ individuals constitute a vulnerable group, and explicit protections for them under the law would express the preferential option for the poor, a central tenet of Catholic Social tradition. While the bishops’ statement unfortunately neglects the needs of the LGBTQ community in Italy, the bishops call for an “authentic and intellectually honest debate.” Continued dialogue will both benefit the democracy of the country and forward efforts towards the concrete protection of the LGBTQ community.
—Madeline Foley, June 24, 2020